Saturday, 23 March 2019
Paysan, pop-up French restaurant, Bloc Coffee, Cardiff
“My mentor chef for instance [Grady Atkins in Cardiff] he’s better than me — he taught me everything. He hasn’t got [a Michelin Star] and he should have been awarded one obviously.”
The above quote from Tomos Parry, one of the UK’s hottest chefs, and the holder of a Michelin Star for his Basque-Welsh cooking at London’s Brat, sums up the high regard he holds for chef Grady Atkins.
Parry trained under Atkins whilst he was head chef at Pontcanna’s Le Gallois (now Heaney’s) and instilled him with a passion for farm to table cooking.
Nowadays, alongside running an ethical soup company, Atkins has recently launched Paysan (French for peasant), a Friday night only French pop-up restaurant in Bloc Coffee, a converted public toilet in Cardiff’s Victoria Park.
With the addition of white tablecloths, Bloc makes for a surprisingly intimate dining venue.
Paysan offers a choice of 2 or 3 courses for a well priced £20/£27 and matching wines for £8/£12. Starters and desserts take the form of no-choice sharing platters whilst for main there’s a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian.
All of the wines we drank were very neckable including a berry rich Laroche Mas La Chevaliere rosé and a big pour of golden honey-like Domaine de Durban Muscat de Baumes de Venise dessert wine.
A pretty platter of Cwm Farm charcuterie and cured seasonal vegetables kicked off the meal in fine style. Smooth textured and big flavoured wild boar liver pate was the star of the show and ably supported by soft textured fennel twanged salami and mildly spiced spreadable 'nduja.
Lightly pickled carrot shavings, dressed roast carrots and purple sprouting broccoli, and a velvety white bean puree brought freshness to the plate. We inhaled a warm and super crisp ficelle bread (like a thin baguette) and thankfully a second loaf was swiftly delivered to the table without asking.
Onto mains and we plumped for the meat and fish options.
A meaty and nicely bronzed (but slightly tight-textured) fillet of monkfish was served with golden caramelised cauliflower, a nut butter and citrus-based meunière sauce and a crisp crouton topped with a luxurious slow-cooked egg with a just set white and perfectly runny yolk.
An Oriel Jones confit of beef was heroically good - crisp of crust, seriously beefy, yielding of flesh and coated in a thick and glossy beefy reduction.
It was served with a filthily good bowl of cabbage coated in a rich cream and mustard sauce.
I can hang my head in shame and say for the first time in 8 years I forgot to take a photo of a dish. That's what happens when Mrs G takes a night off and I lay the blame squarely at my mate Jim.
A top drawer selection (£7) from The Cheese Pantry included the brie-like Baron Bigod, creamy and tangy Ashlyn goats, unsurprisingly hoppy Worcestershire Hop and the Welsh blue classic Perl Las. Soft and fresh seed bread and compellingly different garam masala pickled celery completed the plate.
A trio of desserts was a who's who of comfort food classics.
Thick and creamy fragrant rhubarb custard was topped with a properly shatterable brûléed caramel. Warm bread pudding was light and moist with tangy interest in the form of a cassis sauce. Finally an airy and smooth not-too-sweet chocolate mousse was topped with candied hazelnuts and soft poached pear.
Rather charmingly, a takeaway goodie bag comprised of a generous wodge of onion tart, the vegetarian main option. Buttery pastry was loaded with a soft sweet caramelised onion quiche filling. We made short work of it with a pint in the pub after dinner.
Paysan serves delicious, technically accomplished good-value French food in an intimate atmosphere. I highly recommend it.
Address - Bloc, Cowbridge Rd East, Victoria Park, Cardiff CF5 1JN
Web - https://www.instagram.com/paysan.food/
Bookings - email firstname.lastname@example.org